I have taken some time off of the blog for a number of reasons. One of which was that I took the year to write a novel, which I self published through BookBaby. It is available digitally on iTunes, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon for all digital readers. It's called Land of Sunshine, and you all should read it.
Another reason is that life has gotten pretty busy with all the jobs that I have. One in particular is working at Tiki Tiki Board Games in Woodbury, NJ. There, I teach board games, design them, and get nerds like me introduced to new shit coming out, new mechanisms and designers, and pushing the modern classics that ought to be on every player's shelf. (See also; Catan, Lords of Waterdeep, Agricola, Roll For the Galaxy, etc.) The store is a special place. We're not just your typical fat stinky nerd board game store. We're kind of that, but we're also a center of the community in a Gem Saloon kind of way. Minus the whores and murder. Little bit of drinking, though. (They say that I would probably be Johnny, but I don't know how to take that. I'd rather be the Reverend. Enough with the Deadwood stuff? Got it. Moving on.) Twice a year, our store hosts a one day convention called South Jersey GeekFest. It's a vendor show, but there are also guests, activities, costume contests and the like. It's like a mini comic convention with way more than comics. It's a blast, pulling over three thousand people each gig and rising. We host one in April, and one in October every year. At the Spring gig, we give away the Geek of the Year Award named after a great friend who passed away, AJ Kirk. The AJ Kirk Award is a special thing, and this year, I received it, unknown to me until Big Rye tearfully said my name from the stage. It means more to me than I can communicate because, as Matt points out, I'm a terrible writer.
What does this have to do with modification? Settle down; we're all rusty here. I enjoy anonymity. I enjoy people not knowing who I am but experiencing the effects of my existing. But there are a couple weird rubs here, and we all now that not all rubs are good things. Whether we intend or not, our modifications attract attention. If that attention is invited or otherwise is often irrelevant. Our tattoos, piercings, heavier modifications will garner looks, questions, and interactions with strangers. Those of us in the modified community who don't expect this unwarranted attention are myopic and idiotic. People are going to look at your two inch lobes and throat tattoo; get over it. We cannot dictate to those people who are attracted to us how to behave. They are their own individuals, and I'm glad for that. We can, however, dictate how we ourselves react to their inquiries. We should be cool. Always. It's best for the community, but we've talked about that before. Of course, if someone is a cocksucker about it, we do have some freedom to say what we are thinking. I try to be pretty calculated about it. I try to be fair. Some days it's easier than others.
Staying anonymous while modified can be a little challenging, though. We will always be recognized. The guy with the tattoos, the guy with the stretched lobes, the guy with the giant filthy beard. (Those are all descriptions of me I've heard. Not sure how they know my beard is filthy, though. It totally is.) Speaking only for myself, anonymity sounds like a wonderful thing. It allows my peer group (ugh, that sounds so therapist) to be of my selection. Sometimes, we don't have that luxury. I imagine therein lay some difficulty of celebrity. Of course, I'm not a celebrity. Nor do I have celebrity money to compensate the inconvenience. The other difficulty of my maintaining a personal anonymity is my disability. I walk with a cane and use a wheelchair at times. So the sum of the piercings, tattoos, cane or wheelchair, and filthy beard makes hiding in plain site about as easy as the dumbassed teen in a slasher movie who can't shut up for two minutes while the maniac with the hatchet stalks him. Idiot. You deserve to be cut up into little pieces. Wow. That's really mean. No, wait; I stand by that.
Why is this an issue? Well, if you're going to be recognized, it would be nice to be recognized on your own terms. Being recognized as the guy with the cane, or the guy with the beard is not my decision. It is the easiest identifier to those who don't know me. It's smart in an early man kind of 'don't eat the thing that smells bad' kind of way. But to be recognized for who you are rather than what you are is an accolade. Which is why an award works as it is intended. Let's write smart for a little bit. Follow me.
Of all words or actions, the clearest accolade of attention and respect is recognition. To be recognized. Remembering. Recognition is a pure honesty; it is an uninstigated exercise in communicating an individual's participation in one's reality. A remembering that is not caused by the remembered individual. It is an effort by the rememberer, the recognizer, upon himself taking the thought to know a person. Knowing, remembering, and recognizing is a most personal gift.
Each individual constructs his own realities, and no two are the same. Within them are shapes and colors, sounds, sensations, cares and aggravations. We build it by invitation. We construct it by taste and preference. To know a thing is to have invited it into one's reality to reside and have audience with oneself. Smoking a cigarette on a crowded street, people walk past, sidling the breadth of their realities against each other, but not inviting those realities to participate in their own. They are not invited. All of those faces and smells and sounds of them are deleted from the present memory. They are forgotten. Then comes those who are invited to participate. Lovers, friends, idols. They are chosen because they enhance and encourage reality; and as time continues, they are remembered because reinventing their value in the present with the remembering far exceeds their value from the past. Their values appreciate.
To be recognized is to be appreciated. To be appreciated is to have value, and to be gifted value by the appreciation which comes from recognition of peers and idols is moving and reality changing. It oddly interrupts a well crafted humility with the introduction of pride in being recognized by those whose recognition matters. It also reminds that pride without arrogance is also a welcome addition to reality.
The new pride is also a gift, and for gifts, thanks. Thanksgiving is an exercise in reciprocating a gifted appreciation, which itself is also a gift creating an infinity of gift giving and thanksgiving. Thanksgiving as well has a queer audience with humility and pride, and again reality is changed. Always for the better.
The gravity of reality is also an invitation, and that gravity is often created by inviting those whose emotional mass is great enough to cause effect. Inviting those bodies to affect reality is an exciting calculated risk, and when the risk of introducing that gravity reaps the emotional rewards of friendship or love, the risk is forgotten and the gravity is celebrated.
Woah, what the shit was that? Sorry. I haven't had my coffee yet today. Exploring those ideas, perhaps it isn't anonymity I enjoy, more it is I enjoy the work and the patience of the genuine recognition for who I am rather than what I am. I don't want an award for being a cripple who did a thing. Awards based on manufactured social identity is what over who, and it is hollow. Best gay this. Great black that. Special trans whatever. All what over who. I'd rather an award for hard work in silence irrespective of a disability or a modification or a beard or some social identity or whatever it is. Not that our behaviors ought ever be for the sole purpose of receiving awards. Contrarily, they should be quite the opposite, and I try to maintain that. Shit, the only other awards I've ever gotten were for poetry writing. How metal is that. But the recognition of who above what creates the value of self that we all understand. That recognition doesn't need to be in the form of a plaque. An awesome plaque. With your name on it. That you've hung near your board game collection in your room. So you can look at it and remember that your friends and loved ones think you're the balls. (Still getting used to the award thing. Trophies are new to me. Not an athlete, believe it or not.) Recognition is the most precious gift whose form can be a smile, a hello, a remembering of a name or an interest or an event. A compliment. 'I don't know your name, but you're always super cool to me.' That kind of who over what recognition is an unbelievable gift whose cost is zero, whose value is infinite, and whose accessibility is to all of us. You're not the modified dude, the white guy, the trans person, the gay girl. You are the dude, the guy, the person, the girl. Who over what. To be recognized as a who over a what is a break in the quest for anonymity, and shows me I need to rethink some shit. Goddamnit. I like rules. Stay beautiful, kids.
For the Tiki Tiki family.
Alright. Here's the important shit. Thank you. Without the home that is Tiki, I'd be completely lost. Without your friendships, I'd be unfulfilled. You all know my history with myself. You all know the demons I hang out with each day. You all know the demons who have nearly beaten me, the dysthymic assholes who have made me think at times that terrible things are good ideas. Tiki holds no quarter for them, and I am safe there. Your recognizing me as a man who has value, works hard, cares and expects nothing to come easily is a lighthouse I sail toward every day. Life is a rough sea at midnight, but your recognition of me calms the waters, brings the sun, and encourages me to sail. Thank you for believing in me. I will never let you down.
Ryan, Ryan, Tyler, Mom, Dad, Sister, Dr. Jim, Alana, Jane, Anthony, Claudette, Jacquelyn, Scarlet, Loren, Tish, Gabe, Grace, Kristina, Lisa, Karin, Ron, Scott, Will, Will, Summer, Ann, Dan, Tala, Adam, Adam, Holly, Krista, Courtney, Chelsea, Nick, And anyone who has forgotten we've met.